How Much RAM Do You Need For Photoshop

CG Director Author Alex Glawion  by Alex Glawion   ⋮   ⋮   26 comments
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How Much RAM Do You Need For Photoshop

Knowing how much RAM or Memory you need for editing your Photos in Photoshop can be quite tricky at times because there are so many factors to keep in mind.

This is why I have put together this overview guide that will hopefully answer all your questions about RAM/Memory usage when Editing Images.

First of all, the total Memory usage can be split up into 2 main parts:

  1. How much RAM does your Photo Editing Software need?
  2. How much RAM does the rest of your typical System need to run stable?

Let’s start with the second one so we have that out of the way.

Just in case you are looking for some quick RAM recommendations, this is one of the best performing Memory Kit you can buy. The value is great, and if you are upgrading your RAM, do take a look: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200MHz RAM

How much RAM does a typical Computer need to run?

To make this easier, I’ll describe an average Photo Editor’s Computer. It runs Win 10, usually has a browser such as Chrome open with some tabs, an Email Software, and a Windows Photo-Viewer.

RAM Usage Photo Editing

Chrome is using 1.3 GByte, the Foto Viewer about 250 MByte, My Email Software another 125 MByte and so on. Let’s take a look what Win 10 uses with only these 3 additional Programs started:

Win10 RAM Usage

6 GByte of RAM is used, just so the System and some Standard programs can run.

Now that we know how much RAM a typical System uses just to run, I’ll show you how much additional RAM you will need for Photo Editing:

How much RAM does Photoshop need?

This is how can you find out how much RAM you are currently using for Photoshop and how much you will probably need depending on your use case.

After a fresh start of Photoshop, without having any Photos open, the Software itself needs 262MByte of RAM. Start your Task Manager and see for yourself:

Photoshop RAM fresh start

 

Now after opening a 5MByte JPG 12MP 8bpc (bits per channel) Image, my RAM usage increases to 369 MByte.

 

Photo Editing Ram needs

Why does it increase over 100 MByte? My Image File Size is only about 5 MByte?

Image Compression

Well, the answer is, your Photo Editing Software decompresses any compressed Image File types to make them editable.

JPG is a compressed Image file type, as are PNG and GIF. By using algorithms, the Software can decrease file-size, without losing noticeable Quality. An Image, of course, can only be compressed so much until a quality loss is noticeable.

The reason why a Photo Editing Software decompresses an Image while you edit it is because your photo manipulations are done on a pixel basis, and having to compress the Image after every pixel-change, will make the editing very slow and CPU intensive.

Bit Depth

Another factor for calculating how much RAM you need to edit an uncompressed Image, is Bit Depth.

Typically you edit your Images in RGB mode, meaning you have three channels (R, G, and B) and every channel will be able to save 8 bits or 256 different values. 8 bits per channel, 256 Values per Channel (or Color). All your JPG Images are in 8bpc or 24bpp (bits per pixel).

Resolution

The next important factor, of course, is the Image Resolution. The Math, fortunately, is quite easy:

[Pixel Amount in Width] x [Pixel Amount in Height] x [Bit Depth] x [Number of Channels] divided by 8000000

Why 8 Million? Because 8 Bits are one Byte and a Megabyte are 1000000 Byte.

This will give you the Uncompressed Image Size in MByte that resides in your RAM. If you only have one Layer!

Layers in Photoshop

If you have more than one Layer, you can roughly multiply the amount of RAM usage per Image by the number of Layers.

Also, in Photoshop you can easily find how much RAM your uncompressed Image is currently using by looking in the bottom left corner. The first number is without Layers, the second with all Layers accounted for.

Photo Editing RAM

 

How much Ram do you need for Photoshop?

Ok, this was difficult enough, let’s look at this table, where all Important factors above have already been considered:

RAM needs per Photoshop Layer

Resolution (Megapixels)8bpc10bpc16bpc32bpc
8MP24 MByte30 MByte48 MByte96 MByte
12MP36 MByte45 MByte72 MByte144 MByte
16MP48 MByte60 MByte96 MByte192 MByte
20MP60 MByte75 MByte120 MByte240 MByte

Great, now you can roughly estimate or calculate how much RAM a single Image will need.

Now, to truly estimate How much RAM you will need for Photo Editing all you have to think about is:

  • What Bit Depth do I edit Photos in (usually 8Bpc for JPGs, 16bpc for RAW Files)
  • How many Photos do I have open at the same time
  • How many Layers do my Photos usually have on average
  • How much RAM does my System need additionally

That said, if you don’t want to calculate it yourself but just want some quick recommendation here it is:

On Win 10 and Photoshop, 8 – 16GByte of RAM will be more than enough for most of your tasks when editing JPG Photos in the 10 – 20MP range and the occasional RAW Image.

If you are a power user, who edits mainly in high Bit depths and Resolutions and might have lots of other RAM intensive Software running in the background, consider 16+ GByte of RAM.

Looking for some quick RAM recommendations? Here you go, this is one of the most popular Memory Kit there is: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200MHz RAM

 

That’s about it, have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.

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Alex Glawion - post author

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I’ll do my best to help out!

26
Comments

Martin GC

Hi I use a MacBook Pro. Before it has just 8G of memory with a solid state sata 240G disk, after upgrades to 16G of memory Photoshop start to freeze. So what happened here..?

Hi Martin,

Sorry to hear that – must be very frustrating to see Photoshop freeze when you’ve just doubled your MacBook Pro’s RAM. However, there is little to go on to really identify what’s causing Photoshop to freeze. If I may ask, what version of Photoshop are you using? When do you exactly see Photoshop start to freeze? Did you make any changes in your system after upgrading your RAM?

Cheers,
Alex

Ramjiyani Rajeshkumar

I am use intel i3 3220, 2 core 4 there bat slow wark leging, i am new pc build suggestion please help? Photoshop cc 2020 processor, ram, graphics card. My wark photo album design ,in use the programme photoshop, acdc, crome, matitasking wark

Hi Ramjiyani,

Thanks for asking!

If I may ask, how much are you willing to spend for this build?

You may also want to check the site’s PC Builder Tool. It’s a web-based tool that let’s you choose your use case and adjust the budget and gives you the best PC components/laptop recommendations based on your input. You can find the tool here: https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/

Cheers,
Alex

Emilia

Hi Alex,

Hope you are fine.

I am using photoshop, indesign, after effects and illustrator and i want to change my laptop. I am checking ” Macbook Pro 13 inc-2.4GHz Quad-Core Processor with Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz 256GB Storage Touch Bar and Touch ID” and “Macbook Pro 16 inc-2.6GHz 6-Core Processor 512GB Storage AMD Radeon Pro 5300M” . I am not doing 3D design or film editing but i am doing simple animation on after effects. Can you give me a advice, because i don’t want to buy slow machine. For example is it good 8 GB Ram or it should be 16 GB ram for graphic designer?

Hi Emilia,

Thanks for dropping a comment!

Nowadays, 16GB of RAM is the baseline but as you work on more complex projects or bigger scenes, it would be better if you have at least 32GB of RAM, sometimes even more. At this point, 8GB is okay might not be able to cut it anymore, so to speak.

In terms of laptop recommendation, I don’t tend to recommend Macs because you end up paying more and yet end up getting less in terms of price to performance ratio. For example, the “Macbook Pro 16 inc-2.6GHz 6-Core Processor 512GB Storage AMD Radeon Pro 5300M” you mentioned is currently priced at around $2,399.00. For a little less than that amount, you can get your hands on the more powerful MSI GS75 Stealth-248 17.3″ Gaming Laptop. Below are the specs of the GS75 Stealth:

CPU Intel Core i7-9750H 2.60GHz 6-Core Processor
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q 8GB
Memory(RAM) 32GB DDR4-2666
SSD 512GB NVMe Solid State Drive
HDD –
Weight 2.2 kg (~4.84pounds)
Display 17.3″, 1920×1080

The GS75 Stealth is available at around $2,302.48 and you get the same i7-9750H CPU as the Macbook Pro 16. However, for less than the price of the Mac, the GS75 Stealth comes with a whopping 32GB of RAM compared to just 16GB on the Macbook Pro 16. Not only that, the GS75 Stealth comes with an RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU with CUDA core acceleration which will come in handy in case you plan on using the GPU render engines. At it’s cheaper price point but more powerful specs, the MSI GS75 Stealth-248 17.3″ Gaming Laptop can’t be beat!

Cheers,
Alex

Emilia

Thank your advice!

Jeyan

Hi Alex,

Hope you are doing good

I am purchasing this Apple Machine, Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch Retina, Touch Bar, 2.6GHz 6-Core Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD)

Is this machine compatible for Photoshoot and Light room?

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey Jeyan, yes absolutely! Adobe Software runs like a charm on Apple MacBooks.

Have fun!

Cheers,
Alex

frank

Hi Alex,
i want to buy a surfaace book2, i7 8gb ram and geforce 1050 2gb. i will use photohop and lightroom to edit and export my raw photos (each time around 50 16mp image).
is 8gb ram enough for me for next 4 years? (i cant upgrade it)

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey Frank,
I’d say 8GB of RAM is quite on the low end, especially if you plan on using the Surface Book for the next 4 years, and have to consider working with higher-res images down the line. There are Surface Books with 16GB of RAM. If you can swing it I’d recommend going with that amount.

Cheers,
Alex

ETS

Hi Alex

This is a question that does not fit the specific subject of your article but relates to Photoshop, but i dont know where else to put it. Feel free to answer it wherever you think it fits in.
Can you suggest setups for Photoshop, drawing on a touch screen? Maybe even fit in the different pro and cons using a pad and a screen. Since the i pad introduced screen drawing with finger tip many ppl are getting used to draw on a touch screen, and will look for a good solution for this.
Thank you for your well written articles that describe all the possible builds very clearly.
Ty and best wishes.

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey ETS,
I am sorry to say I don’t have sufficient knowledge in this area. Maybe go by a photoshop subreddit and see if they have extensive experience in this area?

Cheers,
Alex

ETS

Hi Alex
Thank you for your answer. As far as i can tell this area is in the early stages. Mainly driven from the emerging Ipad apps and used by youngsters. All the users with extensive experience have been using drawing pad like Waco and have got familiar with using these (indirect drawing) devices. But the newcomers are spoiled, always drawing directly on the screen, and seem to have issues using the waco pads. But the Ipad apps are still not on a professional level.

And since your articles are explaining every aspect so clearly i wanted to hear your opinion on the subject regarding to use a professional program like Photo Shop or animaton software, with touch screens and the harware for optimizing it. As far as i can read on the web, the atempts to do so has some serious difficulties, that only someone with lots of experience in putting the right harware and software together, can acomplish.

Thank you for your time and Best whishes
ETS

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey ETS,
From what I can put together you should definitely go for high core clocks, as drawing is a process that uses only a single cpu core most of the time, so think i9 9900k or the upcoming ryzen 7 3700X / 3800X / 3900X for example. Everything else is probably not too important in a drawing-oriented PC. RAM go with 16GB or more, get an M.2 SSD, get a decent GPU which doesnt have to be too strong such as a RTX 2060. In terms of drawing hardware / touchscreens I only have limited knowledge but know that the Wacom tablets are leading in this regard, but seem to come at a premium price too.

I would think concerning drawing on a pad or screen, I would want to go to a store and test the devices before buying one. Does it lag behind when drawing? How large is the distance of the screen to the pen, how great is the pen, does it smear, collect fingerprints, is the resolution high enough and so on..

Hope this helps,
Alex

jie

Good article, however, some changes would be advisable…. In your article you are not taking into account that inactive programs/documents are swapped to disk, and not occupying physical memory. The best way to determine if you need to increase RAM is to monitor the computer’s memory swapping to disk (Rather than trying to calculate the requirement). Using “Resource Monitor” Memory -> Hard Faults/sec, shows this activity. “Resource Monitor” is available from “Task Manager”. Have a nice day 🙂

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey jie,
Awesome Thanks! Will look into your suggestions and include them in the article.

Cheers!
Alex

Dominic Pascal

I think this is a pretty good way to start … looking at when things with your normal workflow are usually slowing down!

I normally have some youtube music running, along with Lightroom and Photoshop and 8 GB is a total drag, it’s just not enough. When I upgraded to 24 GB I thought it would be too much but apparently LR and PS grab a bit more memory once it’s there and under normal conditions I get close to 20 GB actively being used — but not swapping anymore, so yay.

cba

As a question of principle: are there any disadvantages of getting MORE memory, say 64 GB ?? apart from the cost …

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey cba,
Some systems such as the Threadripper platform have trouble clocking the RAM at high speeds when all RAM slots are populated. So for example if you had 8x 16gb of ram they would usually only clocks at 2133mhz or 2400mhz but wont be able to clock at 2933mhz. But with 64 GB you don’t have any disadvantages.

Cheers,
Alex

Martin

Hello i’m using photoshop for drawing. Currently I draw 12k x 15k resolution. When just opening photoshop file it is using all of my 16gb of ram. I need way more. But not sure how much. Any ideas? Next project will be even bigger.

Alex Glawion
Alex GlawionCGDIRECTOR

Hey Martin,
In the bottom left corner of Photoshop there should be an indicator of memory intensive the current file is. What does it say there?

Cheers,
Alex

Simo

When i edit in photoshop cs5 (yes, its old af) i edit 4k pictures with tens of layers, and it doesnt take any more than around 100MB of ram.

Mike

Same. I’m using Photoshop 6 with 5D Mark IV TIFFs and have zero problems with 8gb ram.

One has to wonder why Chrome needs over a GB of RAM?